Speaking in Tongues Debate - 14 - Contradictions

Chapter 14 


    Recently I heard a song in tongues. The interpretation was twenty times longer than the few words of the song. No one batted an eye. Everyone in the church was ready to swallow the camel even though they had a reputation for straining at a gnat. And what was I to make of my most recent encounter with speaking in tongues heard a few weeks ago, where the expression "spiriti santi" was uttered at least three times without its being mentioned once in the interpretation? Besides, this pseudo (would-be) gift of tongues was not in Italian, only the expression "spiriti santi". Now the "spiriti santi" is the plural of "spiriti santo" (Holy Spirit). By using the plural form of "one Spirit" (Eph 4:4-6) this man was blaspheming the Holy Spirit without knowing it. He would never have deliberately done so. Who was manipulating his tongue during the worship service? The assembly in which these outrageous practices took place is known to be sober and moderate. Most surprising and troubling of all, these contradictions did not seem to disturb in the least bit the serenity of those who heard them. When I tried to ask about these anomalies, the answers were vague and evasive. Many confessed that their gift of tongues was not understood by the one who spoke it, nor by those who heard it, not even by the one who interpreted it! According to them, this was an ecstatic interpretation, more or less a heartfelt comprehension. Others admitted that the same case of speaking in tongues could very well have several interpretations! So, if understood correctly, when wheat is sown, the harvest might turn out to be corn, oats, rye or, barley without any surprise on the farmer's part? Do you expect that a cat can give birth at the same time to kittens, puppies, little foxes and chicks? But no one gets upset when, in the spiritual realm, we are asked to believe that one kind of speaking in tongues brings forth several kinds of interpretations? Does evangelical Darwinism exist? Are we witnessing a sort of mutation of the species? Am I just supposed to accept passively all of this without pointing out the fraud?

    Someone wrote me to say that he found nothing abnormal about the interpretation being two or twelve times longer than the original message. According to him, the interpretation is not the translation of what was said in tongues but God's answer to it! I was flabbergasted! Even if I were the only one in the world to protest, I would do so. The Scriptures cannot be manipulated in this way! They clearly state that an interpretation is imperative, for Paul wrote to the ones who spoke in tongues at Corinth, "...how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the 'Amen' at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? (I Cor 14:16). In other words, the one who heard speaking in tongues had to understand what was being said in order to add his 'Amen' (so be it). And how could he understand? By the interpretation (I Cor 14:28). And this interpretation was no less than the translation of what had just been said to God by the Spirit. The only one who would dare say the contrary are those who distort the Scriptures to their own destruction (II Pet 3:16).

I Refuse to do so

    I could bring in a whole truckload of these sad "experiences" which have been labeled with the magic password "Holy Spirit". In reality, they near the mark of imagination, opportunism, subjectivism, and some even smell of sulfur. I could go on and on. The supply is inexhaustible, but I do not care to dwell on these sordid, though unfortunately true, stories. I refuse to use the methods of those who try to discredit the apostles because of Judas' betrayal and Peter's denial. You cannot always judge a cause by those who defend it. Some one brought to my attention that immorality is plaguing Pentecostal circles almost as much as it is plaguing the Catholic clergy, but for different reasons. It is because of their hypersentimental approach to spiritual life, the abandonment of their wills to unknown psychic powers, and their excessive desire for success. It is no news to me that they are often disloyal toward other evangelicals, readily fishing in troubled waters, and that in their words as well as in their writings, respect for the truth does not subdue them. As for me, I refuse to point out these faults systematically, especially since other evangelicals may not be any better. The green light has already turned yellow for those who have set the Word of God aside while they still profess to swear by the Bible alone.

Three Dangers

    There are three dangers involved in the present practice of speaking in tongues. In order to consider them correctly and to bring out the seriousness of the matter, we must keep in mind that this gift (charisma) was withdrawn by the Holy Spirit Who had given it for reasons that I have already treated at length.

First danger: Paul says that while speaking in tongues, the understanding (mind) remains sterile (unfruitful) (I Cor 14:16). It is in neutral gear. The Holy Spirit is supposed to take over. The Psalmist wrote, "My heart overflows with a good theme; I address my verses to the King" (Ps 45:1). If the Holy Spirit takes the place of the composer, then the composer is no longer composing. And "letting yourself go" can lead to a very comfortable pillow of laziness.

Second danger: Speaking in tongues easily becomes a diploma of superiority which opens all the floodgates. For many, the gift of tongues is the ultimate proof of consecration, but at the same time it becomes their field marshal's baton. Others are only second-class soldiers, or they are, at their best, simple corporals. Some go so far as to think those who do not have this gift must be unbelievers.

Third danger: Speaking in tongues often replaces self examination and self judgment before the Word of God. When sin moves into a Christian's life, the Christian should examine himself (I Cor 11:28, 31). But using tongues as a criterion of spirituality makes the test easy. Each one tries his gift of tongues to see if it still works, which, without a doubt, it will, since the Holy Spirit, Who may be quenched and grieved, has nothing to do with the affair. The one who analyzes himself in this way would be able to sigh with relief and say, "Since the Spirit still speaks through me in such a supernatural way, He must approve, or more exactly, He does not disapprove of me, at least not enough to take His gift away from me." A conclusion which is no longer based upon what the Word of God condemns but rather upon what the gift of tongues accredits, is an aberration. "Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves" (Rom 14:22). Many of our charismatic brothers have run into this danger. They have found themselves in the same camp as Catholic priests with their false doctrine. But they can no longer disapprove of them, for if a priest speaks in tongues, it means that God's Holy Spirit accepts him on the same level as any born again evangelical. And thus, such pointed dilemma and poor deduction lead directly to the surrender of all doctrine.